The Los Angeles Lakers fell to the L.A. Clippers, 113-105, in a third consecutive loss and one that likely ended whatever glimmer of hope they had of making the NBA Playoffs. In addition to losing ground on the Clippers, the Lakers fell to 5.5 back of the San Antonio Spurs.
Already expecting to be without Lance Stephenson (sprained toe), the Lakers also didn’t have Tyson Chandler (neck stiffness) and Brandon Ingram (right shoulder soreness). Chandler was considered questionable at shootaround, while Ingram’s injury wasn’t discovered until the early afternoon.
The Lakers withstood Ingram’s absence thanks to LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma and Rajon Rondo shouldering the load. Rondo finished with a season-high 24 points and with 10 rebounds and 11 assists, earned his first triple-double with the Lakers.
With the Clippers opting to defend James with smaller players such as Patrick Beverley, Garrett Temple and Lou Williams, he did the bulk of his damage at the free throw line.
The Lakers built out a 34-26 lead by the end of the first quarter, only to allow the Clippers to begin the second on an 16-7 run to take the lead. As the Lakers’ deficit began to grow, a barrage of 3-pointers by Josh Hart and James got them back into the game.
James’ layup tied with 45 seconds remaining in the second quarter, but the Clippers closed with four unanswered points. Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell continued to prove difficult to handle for the Lakers, which head coach Luke Walton highlighted as one of the keys to the game.
The Clippers took a six-point lead into the fourth quarter and stretched it to 12 within the first two minutes. Williams stealing a pass from James and taking the length of the court for a layup earned the Lakers boos.
Hart forced a miss on the initial shot but didn’t have a teammate running back on defense, allowing Williams to convert the put-back. Minutes after Kuzma exited with an apparent ankle injury, Landry Shamet connected on a 3-pointer that essentially iced the game.
Going back to a more traditional lineup with JaVale McGee starting at center did reap some benefits, as Ivica Zubac was held to seven points and four rebounds in his first game against the Lakers since being traded.
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